Good Research Problem: Four Critical Elements

Are you still unsure what thesis topic to pursue while honing your skills in research? Or maybe you have already one but you are in doubt if it is a good research problem at all? Read on to find out if you’re on the right track.

One difficulty that graduating undergraduate and graduate students encounter while preparing their thesis involves the proper selection of their research problem. If you are one of them, how should you go about it? How will you know that the research problem is good enough for you to spend your time, money, and effort?

A Good Research Problem

You will find out that a research problem is good if you have critically assessed and satisfied at least two things:

  1. Does it address a gap in knowledge?
  2. Are there available methods to carry it out?
  3. Do you have the resources to pursue it?
  4. Is it ethical?

Look and see if you have these things at your disposal. If not, then you are not yet ready to do anything at all.

1. A Good Research Problem Addresses a Gap in Knowledge

Research is done to enrich information in a particular field. As knowledge progress in the different aspects of a discipline-oriented issue, other unanswered questions crop up. New challenges arise as we gain more knowledge.

Thus, a good research problem must consider what has not been done after an exhaustive literature review. It addresses a gap that requires a systematic collection and analysis of data for better understanding. It must not duplicate what has already been thoroughly examined by other researchers in interest of time, money, and effort.

2. Methods are Available and Doable

In doing any kind of research, you need to use a standardized research method so that other researchers can confirm your findings or you can compare your results with someone who pursued the same topic as yours.

You can ask yourself the following questions:

  • What methods have been used so far to allow the resolution of the research problem?
  • Would you want your method to be quantitative or qualitative?
  • What instruments will you use to enable you to gather the data that you need?
  • How will you analyze your data?

This requires you to browse the literature and look for methods on the topic at hand. Reviewing the literature will also help you keep up with current topics, identify which of the issues needs more information or lack data for a better understanding of a phenomenon.

Reviewing the literature doesn’t mean reading one or two scientific papers but several, or a lot, so that you can synthesize or point out what has been missed, inconsistent findings, or different conclusions between authors. This just that studies on that topic have not yet matured and that further studies need to be conducted to resolve pertinent issues.

3. Research Resources Allow You to Push Through with the Project

Resources refer to things such as time to complete the research, the amount of money you will need to do the activities associated with your research, your capacity as a researcher, availability of equipment needed for data collection and analysis, among others.

Attending conferences and talking with experts on a current issue can also guide you in your thinking. Is there local interest in pursuing the research issue? If there is, then you can take off from where others have left and discover new relationships between variables.

Once you find a good research problem where you can state it clearly and well, you can consider half of your work done. You are well on your way towards becoming an accomplished researcher.

4. A Good Research Problem Should be Ethical

Although the gathering of scientific evidence is a desirable activity to advance knowledge in different fields to improve human lives, no one must be put at a disadvantage. It must respect people’s privacy. Also, data gathering should ensure that the rights of individuals are not violated. They have the ultimate choice to submit to any requisites of a scientific investigation or experiment. Safety and confidentiality must be ensured.

Thus, a good research problem adheres to the principles of sound and humane practices that recognize and respect human rights — the essence of ethics — which has become a paramount concern for the past decade. History has seen the evils of experimentation that undermined human dignity.

Disturbing and unethical human experiments.

Having incorporated these four critical elements in framing a research problem, you will gain the confidence you need to carry out an investigation along your field. Make research a worthwhile endeavor in your academic and work life.

© 2022 February 16 P. A. Regoniel